A bid to provide free school meals for all of York's Key Stage Two primary school children has taken its next step.

And City of York Council's Labour administration said it was ‘vital’ that the council shows leadership as it continues to try to deliver on the school meal election pledge.

Councillor Bob Webb, Labour’s Executive member for children and young people, said he was pleased with the steps being made and was critical of the previous Liberal Democrat led administration’s approach to ‘tackling the big problems’.

The Lib Dems said parents in York were led to believe that the Labour pledge on a free school meals was fully funded.

A November 16 council meeting will provide the details of a 12-month pilot project which council documents say is designed to deliver on the ‘Executive’s election manifesto commitment to create a cross city alliance to address disadvantage and the cost of living crisis’.

A Labour administration ‘key pledge’ is to ‘ensure every primary school child in York gets a free school meal’.

It promised to ‘mobilise the city’ to deliver the pledge and also said ‘a decade of cuts to local government funding’ meant the council could not fulfil residents’ aspirations on its own.

A council executive meeting on October 12 saw the Labour administration vote to establish a York community fund (YCF).

The Labour group called the YCF a ‘ground-breaking new fund for the city, designed to deliver vital community projects, drawing on the financial support of businesses, non-profit organisations and residents who share the aspiration to make York more equal and affordable’.

Some £100,000 is held in the fund to support the free school meal project and council documents show consultation has taken place with the pilot schools and catering providers to assess their interest in being part of the project.

Headteachers of Westfield Primary School and Burton Green Primary Academy and the Hope Sentamu multi-academy trust are listed in the documents as being consulted, along with Hutchinson caterers and North Yorkshire Catering Service.

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Cllr Webb said: “I’m pleased we’ve taken the next step towards delivery against our pledge to the people of York.

“In the past we have seen little political ambition for tackling the big problems our communities face from the old Liberal Democrat-run administrations, but we are changing that.

“We said we would mobilise the city and the creation of this fund means we can begin to encourage organisations and individuals to contribute to realise this ambition, helping ensure all our young children get the food and nutrition they need to learn and achieve.”

'This must be a government-funded policy'

Councillor Andrew Waller, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for children, young people and education said: “Parents across the city were led to believe that the promises from Labour were fully funded, but are now discovering that this is not the case, and that this will be a time-limited pilot at one school in the city.

“It is clear that the scale of the funding needed means that this must be a government-funded policy, as was the case for universal free school meals for the younger primary school pupils, and the Pupil Premium which is targeted at the most disadvantaged and was brought in by Liberal Democrats in government.

“There are many challenges facing schools at the moment and the York Liberal Democrat-led administration had been working hard with schools to address the attainment gap through Early Talk for York.

“It is disappointing that Cllr Webb is attempting to denigrate these achievements.

“Making the case for Fairer Funding for York pupils (£926 per person spent on schools as a national average vs £735 per person spent on schools in York) has been at the centre of the local Liberal Democrats‘ actions and we hope that Cllr Webb will continue these efforts.”

Since September 2014, state funded schools in England have been required by law to provide free lunches to pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 2, who are not otherwise entitled to benefits-related free school meals.